Week in Review - 05/15/2020

Week in Review - 05/15/2020

EDUCATION

At the first meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE) since the closing of school buildings because of COVID-19, members discussed in committees the rollout of expanded summer meal programs for students, as well as legislative changes that cancelled state testing previously scheduled for spring. Committees met remotely via videoconferencing. The Integrated Student Supports Committee reviewed changes to school meal programs Monday, including 22 federal waivers that have allowed the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to expand its meal programs. The committee also discussed the pending Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Card Program (P-EBT), which will provide additional funds to students receiving free or reduced price lunch once approved by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).


The Ohio Educational Service Center Association (OESCA) recognized 84 of Ohio's top students from across the state during its 31st Annual Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Awards Program on Tuesday, May 12.


The State Board of Education discussed Tuesday an early draft of a "Reset and Restart" guide for school operations in the 2020-2021 academic year, when as-yet-undetermined public health precautions will likely continue to disrupt the normal operation of schools. The board also asked the General Assembly to waive the annual requirement to increase the promotion score on third grade English language arts tests used for the third grade reading guarantee, and to extend its cancellation of state testing for this year to include a subset of homeschool students not covered in earlier legislation. The business meeting Tuesday and committee meetings Monday were the first virtual gatherings of the board. The April meeting had been cancelled as state government adapted to working amid the pandemic.


As Ohio's K-12 education faces roughly $300 million in FY20 state budget cuts and potentially more reductions in FY21 due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, schools will increasingly rely on money transferred to the Lottery Profits for Education Fund, according to Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) Chair Matthew Blair. "With recent cuts to education here in Ohio, lottery sales are going to be more important than ever in supplementing the losses to the schools," Blair said during this week's OLC meeting. 


OLC Finance Director Gregory Bowers said through the first 10 months of the fiscal year, the amount of money transferred to the Lottery Profits for Education Fund is down by $25.1 million against the agency's budget commitment. Additionally, he said the amount transferred so far in FY20 is $57.9 million less than last year at this time.


HIGHER EDUCATION

Otterbein University announced recently that it intends to open campus for the fall 2020 semester, including in-person teaching and resuming residence life. Meanwhile, Case Western Reserve University has announced plans to move forward with "dual-delivery of courses," meaning some students will be physically present and others watching via Zoom.


The University of Cincinnati (UC) announced recently it will adopt a test-optional admissions policy for a two-year period as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The move means that students entering UC in fall 2021 will not be required to submit standardized test scores from the ACT or SAT to gain admission to the majority of programs. Though a few select programs will still require a standardized test, most applicants will be able to choose whether or not to submit scores to be considered as part of UC's new admissions review model, according to the university.


JUDICIAL

The General Assembly did not violate constitutional strictures on legislative procedure with its rapid-fire enactment of a school takeover law, nor did it usurp constitutional authority of local school boards, a split Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The decision puts the fate of the controversial law, 131-HB70 (Brenner-Driehaus), back in the Legislature, which debated changes for much of 2019 but reached no resolution. The ruling came in a jumble of opinions, with Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor writing a lead opinion joined by Justice Patrick Fischer, accompanied by two concurrences and separate dissents from both of the Democratic justices, Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart.